It was the mental aspects of Ty’s abilities that Zane pondered almost gleefully as they moved. Zane wondered if Ty would even be able to handle any of it, or if that was why Zane had been partnered with the guy; to be the brains of the operation, so to speak.
“Listen up, ’cause I'm only gonna say this once,” Ty muttered as they walked to their gate. “I don’t talk when I fly. I sleep. And I don’t listen when I eat, understand? I don’t wanna be buddies. I don’t wanna chat,” he said with a sarcastic lilt to the word. “I don’t wanna know about your childhood or how your momma whipped you with a rubber glove or how much therapy you had to go through ’cause you flunked out of preschool. I don’t wanna hear about how you want to be Director someday or how many collars you got chasin’
those Internet freaks or how proud you are of your bowel movements. I don’t wanna go shopping at Barney’s with you, and I’m not gonna help you pick out your ties to match your socks and, I swear to God, if you get me shot, I’ll kill you. ”
As he followed the other agent onto the plane and found his seat, stoic demeanor in place, Zane couldn’t decide whether to be offended, upset, or just sad. Punching his new partner would likely not be condoned, and he wasn’t sure Grady wouldn’t give as good as he got just to cause a scene. But what a miserable life the man must have. Well, he wasn’t the only one who had had it hard. Zane tried hard to sublimate the anger that line of thought caused, but so far, Ty just made him want to reach out and throttle the shit out of him.
Wouldn’t the Bureau just love that?
He decided it was best—for all parties involved—to ignore the man beside him. He went ahead and pulled out the comparative chart he’d made of the coroner’s information with notes all over it in his tiny, crablike handwriting. At least some of the time could be well-spent.
Ty sighed heavily as he flopped into his seat and shook his head as he dug out the seat belt. His brand new partner had failed the first test. Anyone who would quietly take the vitriol he had just spewed without so much as a
“fuck you” in return was nothing but a brown-nosing ladder-climber who should have been riding a desk or working in the civilian market. At least his last partner had given as good as he got, he thought with a wince.
Zane heard the annoyed exhalation and ignored it. He gritted his teeth and wished there was some way to get out of this assignment. It was going to 14
be an utter debacle, and he likely wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. He wondered what ninth level of clerking hell he would be demoted to if this went wrong, or what type of civilian job he could get after he was kicked out of the Bureau. That upset him more than anything, thinking of all the years going to waste.
The flight was only about an hour long, and Ty planned to sit there and sleep the entire fucking way. The kid kicking the seat behind him was the only thing keeping him awake as the plane taxied down the runway. He turned around and peered through the coach seats, his hazel eyes piercing the kid as he narrowed them.
“Kick it one more time, and I’ll rip your toes off and eat ’em,” he promised.
“Have some decency,” Zane chastised as his head turned to the side to check the situation. “He’s gotta be three. He doesn’t know any better. ”
“He does now,” Ty countered as he turned back around and settled into his seat contentedly. Behind him a horrified young mother was holding her son’s toes and gaping, wide-eyed and speechless.
“You have absolutely no people skills,” Zane muttered, shaking his head. “No wonder you’re sinking fast in the Bureau. ”
“Yeah, I’m a real anchor,” Ty drawled as he leaned his head back and smiled. “I hear no one else will work with you. ”
Zane’s lips pressed together slightly and he didn’t look up from his paperwork. “You should have your hearing checked,” he said flatly.
“My hearing’s just fine, Skippy. You were ‘promoted,’ right?” Ty asked sarcastically, giving the word quotations with his fingers without opening his eyes. “Hate to tell you, Sport, but being transferred to another division in the same level ain’t a promotion. It’s called shuffling the unwanted. ”
“Reliable information, I’m sure, from someone on a landslide down the ladder. ”
“We both seem to be on the slip ‘n’ slide to the gutter, Shuffleboard,”
Ty observed happily. “Difference is, I don’t give a shit,” he offered as he reached up and turned off the overhead light and adjusted the cool air blowing down on him.
Zane didn’t reply, instead closing his eyes for a moment to swallow down on the flare of annoyance. It was true. Ty didn’t give a shit. But Zane did, which meant they were destined to be at each other’s throats the whole time they were forced to work together.
Ty merely snickered quietly, knowing he had hit a chord. This could provide some amusement after all, he decided, even if they did end up killing each other.
Zane focused again on the notes. The rest of the flight passed in silence. Details about the deaths bounced around in his head, not really settling into any sort of pattern yet. He would dig the photos out and study them once they got settled. Maybe he could get a feeling for each victim.
He glanced up when the seat-belt light went on, and he looked over at Ty unhappily. The other man had dozed lightly in expectation of the long day ahead, and Zane decided that Ty sleeping was him at his most charming. But now he had to wake him up.
“Grady,” he muttered, voice clipped.
“Not again, sugar, m’tired,” Ty muttered as he flopped onto his side and jostled them both in the cramped seats.
Unamused, Zane pushed against the other man. “Grady,” he said more insistently. “Wake up. ”
Ty huffed and opened his eyes slowly, looking around sleepily.
Zane looked down at him, mildly surprised by the momentary drop in the rough attitude. “We’re getting ready to land,” he murmured.
Ty groaned softly and rolled onto his back again. He stretched his arms high over his head, yawning as he turned his body slightly and reached one arm way out into the aisle. The air hostess who was making her last check down the aisle walked right into his hand and gasped as he grabbed her. Ty dropped his arms and twisted to look up at her. “Sorry, sweetheart,” he offered with a small, unrepentant smile.
She huffed slightly and gave him a wry smile as she turned in the aisle. “I’ve had worse,” she murmured in response as she bent and slowly buckled his seat belt for him. “Put yourself in the upright position, please,”
she said to him softly before moving away. Ty raised his seat obediently and grinned, watching her with a contented smirk as she turned and continued on down the aisle.
While Zane silently envied Ty’s free attitude and behavior, in the end, he just couldn’t believe the man’s gall. “How did you become such a total ass?” he asked, morbidly curious.
Ty cocked his head and watched the woman until she took her seat, then turned to look at Zane. “I didn’t mean to,” he insisted innocently. “C
cups can get in the way. ”
Zane’s look was patently disbelieving. “I think you decide what a perfectly polite person would do and then do the absolute opposite. It’s like it’s your life’s goal to be the Antichrist. ”
“The Antichrist,” Ty echoed, laughing as he shook his head. “Yeah. I bet you were head of the Drama Club in school, weren’t you?”
“You didn’t deny it. ”
“And Lord knows I mean everything I say,” Ty responded with mock sincerity, pressing his hand to his heart and leaning closer to Zane earnestly.
“You just have that look,” Zane confirmed, face stilled to passivity.
Ty chuckled and turned to look back at the front of the plane as the wheels squealed on the tarmac and the plane decelerated rapidly. “You’re gonna have to dislodge that stick up your ass pretty damn quick
if we’re going to be working together,” he added as the plane taxied to their gate. He unbuckled before the seat-belt light went off and rolled his neck.
“What’s the matter? Afraid it’s catching?” Zane asked. His patience was already wearing thin. He didn’t have the time or the luxury to deal with Ty’s antics.
“No, I’m not afraid of turning into you,” Ty answered wryly, laughing softly as he shook his head. He leaned closer to Zane, almost close enough to touch his cheek with his nose. “You smell like Feeb,” he explained in a low, serious voice. He was probably one of the only FBI agents who would actually utter the derogatory term other agencies used when talking about them.
When Zane turned his gaze on the other agent, his eyes glinted dangerously. His voice was frigid. “I bet you get off on it. ”
Ty smiled slowly, his eyes glittering mischievously. “If I did, would you change?” he asked.
Zane merely shook his head as if he felt sorry for the other man, deciding not to comment as he stood. The words on his tongue were certainly ungracious and unbecoming, and he couldn’t afford it being reported. Not that his would rival Ty’s behavior.
Ty shrugged and stretched to retrieve his satchel from the overhead bin. He didn’t say another word as he followed the short line to the front of the plane and the exit. The stewardess stood there, smiling and saying goodbye to each passenger, and when Ty came up to her he grinned widely and nodded at her cheekily.
“You have a nice stay in New York, sir,” she said to him as she reached out and took his hand, discreetly pressing a piece of paper into his palm.
“Oh, it’s getting nicer already,” Ty responded brightly as he lingered there for a moment, looking her over rakishly, and then moved on to the exit.
“And just how is your image supposed to represent the Bureau better than mine?” Zane asked under his breath as they walked toward the concourse.
“It’s not,” Ty answered over his shoulder. “That’s the whole damn point, Shuffleboard. ”
With his long legs, Zane easily caught up to walk alongside him. “So why the hell work for the Bureau at all if you don’t give a damn?”
“’Cause I ain’t in it for the status,” Ty answered blithely.
Ty knew Zane had fallen away, but he didn’t stop walking. If the dickhead wanted to sulk his way into being late for their meeting, that was his business. Ty was looking out for Number One. As always.
He also had a slightly more personal interest in this particular case.
Zane finally exited the main terminal and stepped out into the cool air as Ty was climbing into a black government Tahoe. Within a minute, he was seated inside as well, and the truck left the curb and pulled out into the airport traffic.
Ty slumped in the backseat, trying to shake off the grogginess and think up new ways to annoy his new partner. He looked at the driver in the rearview mirror, seeing brown eyes and high cheekbones and short, curly hair.
This guy was too pretty to be an agent. And he looked like he was about fifteen. The light-haired man in the passenger seat looked even younger.
“What are you two, the Hardy Boys?” he asked them with a huff.
Eyes flickering forward, Zane took in the two agents in front of them and frowned.
“That’s very clever of you, sir,” the driver responded dryly without taking his eyes off the road. “I could point out that we’re too young to know who the Hardy Boys are and make you feel very old,” he added as his brown eyes glanced to the rearview mirror and looked back at Ty. “But I would never do that, sir. ”
Zane’s lips twitched, but he didn’t comment. His eyes displayed his amusement as he glanced a little more carefully over the two young men.
They were both very young, but Zane knew that experienced agents were practically being churned out of preschools these days.
“Welcome to New York, Special Agent Garrett, Special Agent Grady,” the passenger greeted as he turned slightly in his seat. “I’m Agent Mark Morrison, this is Agent Tim Henninger,” he went on. His voice changed slightly to add a hint of sarcasm. “We’re the lollipop boys sent to take care of you. ”
Ty narrowed his eyes and examined Morrison and then Henninger slowly. He turned his head and glanced at Zane critically. “I think that was supposed to be a cultural reference of some sort,” he explained to his partner.
“I don’t get it,” he huffed.
Zane snorted. “Big surprise,” he murmured, almost under his breath.
Morrison leaned around the seat to look back at them. “We’ll be your escorts and New York Field Office contacts while you’re here. We’re on the way to the office now to meet the Special Agent in Charge. Can we stop anywhere on the way? Food? Drink?”
“What, you didn’t pack your lunch?” Ty asked sarcastically as he shifted around in the seat and wedged himself against the door. He kicked a foot up and propped it on the console between the two front seats.
“Sure, in my SpongeBob SquarePants lunch box. I have the thermos, too,” Morrison shot right back.